Pitch-perfect Resume

By Chelle Cordero

May 9, 2012 5 min read

Your r?sum? is the first impression a prospective employer has of you, so you want to tailor this all-important door opener to present yourself in the best possible way. What your r?sum? says about you can help demonstrate your worth to a company and earn you an invitation to elaborate on that during a face-to-face interview.

There are a few common formats used for r?sum?s, but overall it needs to be filled with relevant experience and skills. Personalize your r?sum? for each job you are applying for by using keywords specific to that position; use the job description to pull pertinent words. There's a lot of competition for every opportunity, so your r?sum? has to catch the eye of whoever is doing the hiring.

Think of your r?sum? as a two-part marketing tool. The first section should work like an advertisement or a banner and make you stand out as the ideal candidate. The second section should contain the facts and evidence to back up that first impression followed by a brief and focused summary.

The three basic types of r?sum?s are chronological, functional and combined chronological/functional. The chronological r?sum? focuses on your experience with a lot of detail given to each job and its responsibilities. Employer/company names and job titles are prominent. This works best for an experienced worker in the same field. Open with a strong objective to help focus the reader.

In the functional r?sum?, your skills and accomplishments are emphasized, and the prospective employer can see what you would bring to a new position. Your job experience may be listed without a lot of description. This format works well for a new entry into the job market or a change in career, because it emphasizes skills more than experience.

The combined r?sum? is truly a combination of the two formats. This r?sum? briefly lists major skills and accomplishments and follows that with a list of previously held jobs and a short description of each. Although this r?sum? format tends to run longer, it borrows the best of both from the other formats.

All r?sum?s need to include your work history with descriptions, dates, education and affiliations. List your jobs and education in reverse order using only the briefest of summaries for the earliest jobs. Think of the employer's needs when you list pertinent skills, experience and significant accomplishments.

Be sure to list the employer's requisite needs -- for example, education, skills and experience -- as long as they apply. If you don't have the employer's specific job description, find a similar one from another company or online. Borrow keywords so that when the human resources professional scans your r?sum?, they will want to give it a closer look. If you are not applying for a specific job, be clear as to the type of work and responsibilities you are looking for.

If you are new to the job market, list all of your relevant experience, including volunteer work, internships and work-study and class projects. Focus on where you are going in your career instead of where you've been. If you've already spent several years in the job market, not all of your past experience will necessarily impress a new employer; limit your information to no more than the past 15 years of similar employment.

"Craft your r?sum? to show how you've used your skills and the results you've produced," says Michael Olender, associate state director for AARP New York. Olender helps counsel older workers looking for employment. "Translate your experience into skills and accomplishments that are required for the job you are seeking."

If your r?sum? has done its job and you are called in for an interview, practice your "pitch" (speech); you are selling yourself and your skills. The speech should answer: Who are you? What strengths can you bring to this company? How have you made an impact, and how is that impact important to this job? What sets you apart from the competition?

Be honest about your abilities. Saying that you know how to do something and then not being able to support your statement will hurt you in the long run. Be honest about your expectations, as well, both with yourself and with the interviewer.

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